Vacations are all about tanning, sightseeing, shopping and dining, right? Not always. Next time you jet off to another destination with the cuties, consider volunteering as a family! There are many Asian destinations where you can enjoy a fun holiday and make a difference at the same time – and the trip will make a lifelong impression on your kids! Little Steps brings your our top picks for voluntourism holidays for families in Asia. Get packing!
Open your mind and hearts to a range of humanitarian efforts with Openmind Project. The organization has family-focused holidays across Southeast Asia offering a range of projects based on your specific interests and skills. You can teach and volunteer at a local school in Thailand, or support conservation projects in Laos. Choose from intiatives that positively impact refugees in Burma and volunteer for health care programs in Nepal – there are limitless options.
Open Mind Projects, www.openmindprojects.org
Living in five-star luxury doesn’t mean that you can’t give back! Ritz-Carlton offers an array of volunteering outings to destinations across the globe, from supporting sea turtle nesting in Sanya, working at a soup kitchen in New York City to experiencing the daily life of a high school student in Shanghai (proceeds from the day will go to benefit the school’s scholarship fund), there’s lots to do and experience.
Ritz-Carlton Giveback Getaways, www.ritzcarlton.com
Spanning the globe with opportunities across the Americas, Africa and Asia, Cross-Cultural Solutions lets you find a destination that supports your family’s interests and passions. If you want to stay close by, there are programs in Thailand and India. One expedition is in Dharamsala India, high up in the Himalayas, where you and your bubs can help disabled kids and teach English, among other activities that allow you to tap into the local culture.
Cross-Cultural Solutions, www.crossculturalsolutions.org
Your young city slickers will get a lot out of this cross-cultural adventure to rural communities around the world. Crooked Trails offers homestays where your entire family will stay and share meals with your hosts and engage in everyday tasks. There are destinations worldwide including Nepal, India, Bhutan, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, as well as further afield in Africa and South America.
Crooked Trails, www.crookedtrails.org
As part of the Sanctuary, Care for Nature program, Shangri-La Mactan in Cebu has a beautiful marine sanctuary that spans six hectares from the resorts' beachfront. Budding marine biologists and animal lovers of all ages can plant coral cones, tour the natural habitat, and help with coastal cleanups. Other trips involve helping local schools, engaging with local farmers on an eco-tour, among other custom outings.
Shangri-La Mactan, Punta Engano Road, Lapu-Lapu, Cebu, 6015, Philippines, +63 3223 10288, www.shangri-la.com
The Global Village Project offers an experience like no other. One of the most recognizable charity and non-profit organizations on the planet, Habitat for Humanity has built millions of homes around the world. Get your whole family involved in building homes for the needy, all the while learning how others around the world live. There are programs in Nepal, Thailand and China, as well as locations further afield.
Habitat for Humanity, www.habitat.org
Escape to this peaceful slice of paradise surrounded by lush vegetation. Lao Spirit Resort is an eco lodge set in the pristine wilderness of Laos, where you and your babes can ride around on bikes, paddle in the water, and explore the jungles. Plus, you can all ride the rescued elephants onsite and take a tour of the immaculately beautiful grounds.
Lao Spirit Resort, Xieng Lom Luang Prabang, Laos, +856 20 5855 3133, www.lao-spirit.com
You don’t have to go far to lend a helping hand! Room To Read invites entire families to participate in all of their projects, including constructing schools, establishing libraries, and distributing books. Bring your tykes to visit one of its schools in China. The cost of a visit is just US$25, which benefits this outstanding program that will impact the lives of 10 million children worldwide by 2015.
Room To Read, www.roomtoread.org
Start teaching your children the spirit of giving back at a young age with a family vacation with Globe Aware. They organize outings to locations around the globe, including numerous destinations in Asia such as Cambodia, Vietnam, China, India and Nepal. Areas of need vary according to the destination, but can cover health, education, environment and children. Find a place and cause that suits you and your kids.
Globe Aware, www.globeaware.org/volunteers
Located just a short tuk tuk ride away from Angkor Wat, the stylish hotel and sister resort is bettering the lives of locals. The Shinta Mani organization gives grants to locals for start-up businesses; it also runs a free hospitality school funded by part of the proceeds from hotel stays. You can arrange a family tour to visit rural communities and take part in their monthly Khmer artisan market.
Shinta Mani, Junction of Oum Khun Street 14th, Mondul 2, DE-99423, Cambodia, +855 63 761 998.